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Criteria and indicators for sustainable woodfuels

This publication assesses the environmental, social and economic issues as well as the legal and institutional frameworks that can ensure the sustainable production of woodfuels from forests, trees outside forests and other sources. The study continues the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations’ long interest in wood energy issues and complements the many other FAO reports on wood energy and sustainable forest management.

FAO’s programme on wood energy promotes sustainable wood energy systems as a contribution to sustainable forest management, livelihoods and food security. To this end, FAO and the International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Task 31 developed a project to evaluate principles, criteria and indicators applicable to woodfuel systems to ensure sustainability. IEA Bioenergy Task 31, “Biomass production for energy from sustainable forestry”, is an international collaboration of nine countries in Europe and North America and is one of 13 task groups under the auspices of the IEA Bioenergy Implementing Agreement.

Wood energy is the dominant source of energy for over 2 billion people, particularly in households in developing countries. Biofuels, especially fuelwood and charcoal, currently provide more than 14 percent of the world’s total primary energy. Social and economic scenarios indicate a continuous growth in the demand for woodfuels which is expected to continue for several decades.

The dependence on woodfuels is greatest in developing countries, where they provide about one-third of total energy. In some subregions of Africa, as much as 80 percent of energy is derived from biofuels. Fuelwood and charcoal, the most commonly used wood-based fuels, are vital to the nutrition of poor rural and urban households in developing countries. In addition to being used for domestic cooking and heating, they are often essential in food processing industries for baking, brewing, smoking, curing and producing electricity. In developed countries, wood is increasingly used as an environmentally sound source of energy (mainly for heat and power generation). As a potential substitute for fossil fuels, wood energy can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

View the report here: Criteria and indicators for sustainable woodfuels